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Strangers on a bridge by Louise Mangos – a review

Alice is out running one morning and meets a man called Manfred on a bridge threatening to throw himself off. She manages to talk him down and after chatting returns home feeling unnerved but relieved that she has helped. When Manfred turns up at her house initially it is just a nice gesture to say thanks, however things start to take rather dark turn and she soon realises that her family might be in danger.

This was a really hectic ride of a story. Told only from the viewpoint of Alice this is a fast pace story that draws you in from the moment that Manfred comes into view. Personally I thought that Alice as a character was quite annoying, but this is partly what
draws the story along. A lot of her actions seem a bit suspect, such as getting in a car with a complete stranger and driving them miles. However we all love a flawed character and Alice is certainly one of those. The fact that the book is told only from the viewpoint of Alice means that you can’t tell how true things are as obviously she is biased. It also means that it gives the story a very claustrophobic feel, as you feel as though you are in Alice’s head.

Strangers on a Bridge is set against the background of the Swiss Alps. Alice is a loner in the village, an outsider who the police think is just being an hysterical English woman. There are some lovely descriptions of the place and the writing conjures up a wonderful atmosphere that adds to the tension of the novel as Alice get more and more desperate. The beautiful scenery is a terrific contrast to the dark obsession that fuels the story.

The story starts out as a seemingly simple tale of one man obsessing over a woman. However the twists soon turn this into something more unique. I really enjoyed this novel and thought it was a compelling read. The tale becomes more gripping as the obsession within it grows and the ending was one I really didn’t see coming. I’d highly recommend this novel that will keep you questioning who is right and who is wrong throughout.

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The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond – a review

This is a book that had been sat on my kindle for a while and for some reason it had never made it to the top of my list until a recent trip to Manchester. When I realised I was sat in a bar with no new books to read and no internet connection I opened this without really knowing what it was about.

The Marriage Pact follows newlyweds Jake and Alice who are given a mysterious wedding gift, a membership of a very exclusive club that guarantees they will never get divorced. They just have to sign an agreement that states they will live by the rules of the Pact. Of course that seems to be an easy enough statement when they are still in that honeymoon phase, rules include always answering the phone when your spouse calls, buying them a present every month, arrange a trip away every three months. However these rules all seem fine and a bit of fun, until one of them gets broken and the full force of the pact takes effect. The crimes they committee against the marriage pact start off small, lawyer Alice is late at work a few days on the trot, she puts on a bit of weight so is made to see a personal trainer at 5am every morning. All of these things seem relatively small yet as the punishments keep coming the fear of the consequences of the pact become much bigger.

The Marriage Pact is a cracking little read, although you do have to suspend belief a bit. The concept that perfectly sane educated people would join what is essentially a cult that dictates how they have to act in their own lives is clearly not something that would happen in real life. However when you put that to one side this was a story that kept me hooked through to the end. The characters whilst a little annoying are quite likeable, and you feel for Alice as she tries to keep the full force of the punishments away from Jake. Yet on the other side you do wonder why both her and Jake don’t just say no!

I enjoyed the plot of this novel and the writing is good. The story is told from the point of view of Jake, and I think that was made me prefer Alice to him. He works as a marriage guidance counsellor and yet seems to completely miss the signs that there might be problems in his own relationship.

The Marriage Pact is an intriguing little tale, and whilst it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea due to the unrealistic plot, personally I really enjoyed it. Thanks to netgalley for my copy. 

 

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Trap by Lilja Sigurdardottir – a review BLOG TOUR

I have a confession to make, when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for Lilja Sigurdardottir’s new novel Trap I jumped at the chance as there was a copy of her first novel Snare on the bookshelf and I had thoroughly enjoyed her appearance at the TOPCWF. However it wasn’t until I started reading Trap that I realised I had never actually got around to reading Snare (not a surprise if you knew the size of my ‘to be read’ pile. Well I might be reading them in the wrong order but Snare is definitely going to the top of the pile now I’ve read Trap.

Trap starts with Sonja and her son Thomas living in Florida, enjoying the sunshine but on the run and looking over her shoulder. The reason for this soon becomes clear as Thomas is kidnaped by his father. Sonja and Thomas have to return to Iceland where her lover Agla is waiting. Agla is awaiting sentencing for financial misconduct, yet she also owes a lot of money to some rather unpleasant people. Sonja has a plan to bring down her ex-husband and the drug barons running the city, along with help from customs officer Bragi. However things don’t go to plan and Sonja is soon in more trouble than she can handle.

Trap is a fast paced crime novel that will keep you turning the pages (or pressing the kindle button) The title of the novel is a fitting description of both Sonja’s predicament and also the overall feeling you get when reading it. The writing draws you into the story and you feel the frustrations of the characters as they try to deal with the fallout and things don’t go to plan. I really enjoyed the characters within this novel, especially the relationships between Sonja and her son and also between Sonja and Bragi who is torn between doing his job and helping Sonja.

The setting is interesting, with the action mainly taking place in Reykjavik and the descriptions of the place add to the chilling tone of this novel. Some of the financial elements went a bit over my head but that in no way detracts from my enjoyment.

I absolutely recommend Trap if you are a fan of a fast paced Nordic set novel, I can’t wait to go back and find out how the series began.

Make sure to visit the other stops on the blog tour to find out more about this fantastic series of novels.

 

Trap is available to purchase now at Amazon.

 

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The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carre – giveaway BLOG TOUR

For my final review of the week I am very excited to be taking part in the John Le Carré blog tour. Now I must confess that I have never actually read any of John le Carré’s books before. I know that is shocking but then I’ve also never seen a James Bond film so I’m maybe not the normal target audience. However I do like to read books that I wouldn’t necessarily choose myself therefore when I was asked to take part in a blog tour by Penguin Modern Classics I jumped at the chance to discover a new (to me) author.

Yesterday Penguin completed a major nine-year project to publish twenty-one of John le Carré’s novels in Penguin Modern Classics. The last one to be published is The Little Drummer Girl which is also going to be the subject of a major six-part BBC adaptation this October produced by the team behind The Night Manager.

John Le Carré is the living author with the greatest number of works awarded this classic status. To celebrate this achievement I am delighted to say I have now read one of his books, namely The Secret Pilgrim.

The Secret Pilgrim, although following on from a trilogy, was actually probably a really good one for me to start with. The main character of George Smiley clearly features in this book however the main focus is actually on a character called Ned. Ned has asked George to give a speech to a group of pupils at a spy school. As George begins to talk Ned is reminded of varying points of his own career and we are then treated to stories from Ned’s past as we follow him from his first assignment through to his final interrogations and from a young single spy to a rather unfaithful married one.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Secret Pilgrim. The book almost felt like a series of short stories with George Smiley’s speech being rather peripheral. It was fascinating to read about the exploits of Ned and his colleagues and I really enjoyed the fact that due to the nature of the book each story was simple and easy to follow (perfect for someone like me with a rather short attention span!)  One thing that struck me was actually the story although written in 1990 still resonates today, with its ideas that things are not always what they seem and that sometimes the lines between right and wrong get blurred. Whilst I imagine that a lot of the characters make appearances in previous novels I think this works perfectly as a stand alone book and is a great introduction to the world of espionage.

If you would like to give The Secret Pilgrim a go yourself then as luck would have it thanks to the lovely people at Penguin Modern Classics I have a copy to give away. To be in with a chance to win simply comment, or share this post or retweet my tweet about it. The winner will be picked on Friday 5th October.

The Secret Pilgrim and all of the novels are available on amazon.

To find out about the other 20 books in the series make sure you visit the other stops on this exciting blog tour.

John le Carre - Blog Tour Card

 

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The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran – a review BLOG TOUR

Whilst normally I wouldn’t post twice in one day, sometimes there are just books that it is impossible to say no to, and this was one of them. The Infinite Blacktop is the first I have read by Sara Gran, although it is actually the third novel featuring Private Investigator Claire De Witt.

The book starts with a bang, literally, as Claire comes round after a car accident and realises that someone is trying to kill her. This starts off a novel that is actually three stories in one. There is the mystery in the present day of who is trying to kill Claire. We then shoot back to 1986 where Claire and her friends are teenage detectives until one of them goes missing. Then in the middle we visit 1999 where Claire is trying to get enough hours under her belt to qualify for her PI license investigating a murder in the art world.

I must confess that this took a little while for me to get into. It read at first as a bit Agatha Raisin with each title being The Case of something. (Yes I know lots of other classic detective stories also use this idea that’s just the one that sprang to my mind!) However Agatha Raisin this certainly wasn’t. Claire is moody, violent, has a penchant for drug taking and is happy to use whatever methods necessary to protect herself and solve her cases. I think I would probably have warmed to her more if I had read the previous books whereas in this I didn’t really take to her much. However the stories themselves were interesting. I especially liked the younger version of Claire and it was clever how all the parts interwove throughout.

This was an good read, despite the three timelines it was easy to keep track of and the story went along at speed. Once you get into the swing of the writing I really enjoyed it. Despite my odd reservation about some of Claire’s actions it shows what people are capable of when they are pushed. It is also fascinating to find out about Claire’s previous life and these other time lines give a great insight into why Claire is like she is.

If you like strong female lead characters who take no prisoners then you can’t go far wrong with this gritty tale of a female PI. I will definitely be starting this series from the beginning.

Sara Gran is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, including Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, Come Closer and Dope. She also writes for film and TV, including ’Southland’ and ’Chance’, and has published in The New York Times, The New Orleans Times Picayune and USA Today.

Her latest novel is available here

 Visit the other blog tour stops to find out more:

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Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas – a review BLOG TOUR

Do Not Disturb begins when Kirsty moves with her family into a small B&B in Wales which she is going to run with her Mother. Having had a hard time in London, Kirsty sees this as the opportunity for her husband Adrian and their two girls to all have a fresh start and are delighted when guests start arriving. Unfortunately one of their first guests is Kirsty’s cousin Selina, who Kirsty hasn’t seen for years after they fell out. Whilst they start to rebuild bridges strange things start happening around the house and soon Kirsty doesn’t know who she can trust.

The idea of a family having a fresh start is always an intriguing premise to me and this book didn’t disappoint. Do Not Disturb was a great story of a family with secrets all threatening to tumble down. I liked the dynamic between all the characters, which were well written and believable. All the usual family niggles were in this novel, the husband and wife trying to get along, the children at new schools throwing tanturms. The slightly strained relationship between Kirsty and her Mother who she is reliant on for the business adds to the tension of a family already on the edge.  Kirsty is clearly hanging on by a thread trying to keep her family together and not let her daughters know what is going on. Selina on the other hand plays the victim and comes across as the struggling single mother trying to care for her daughter and make amends to how she treated Kirsty in the past.

Whilst part of the Selina story was quite obvious from the start this didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment. There were lots of twists and red herrings, and every character has their own skeletons in the closet which just added to the tension.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable story that kept me guessing all the way along and I certainly didn’t see the end coming. Thanks to Katie at Penguin House Random UK for letting me read it. Do Not Disturb is available here 

To find out what others thought of Do Not Disturb make sure you visit the other stops on the blog tour:

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Dead of Night by Michael Stanley – BLOG TOUR Q & A

I am lucky enough to have a hobby that brings me into contact with loads of fantastic books and authors. It is always an absolute pleasure to be contacted by authors and publishers and invited to read their books. However every now and again I get emails that truly send my excitement levels rocketing, and one recently inviting me onto the blog tour for the latest by crime writing duo Michael Stanley was just such an email.

I am a huge fan of their Detective Kubu series having read my first one as part of my TOPCWFC a couple of years ago (after the challenge finished unfortunately) and absolutely love them. Their latest however is a departure from Detective Kubu, still set in South Africa, it introduces us to journalist Crystal Nguyen. When her friend goes missing whilst investigating a rhino poaching ring she is determined to find out what has happened.

I am absolutely delighted therefore to welcome Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip to acrimereadersblog. Thanks so much for joining me.

Firstly I have to ask, what inspired Dead of Night and why the move away from Detective Kubu?

We haven’t moved away from Detective Kubu. We really enjoy writing about him and his cases in Botswana, each set against a different backstory arising from the realities of southern Africa. There are certainly more Kubu books ahead! However, when you write a series, there are some inevitable constraints. Although every story stands alone, the focus always needs to be the series protagonist. And the very features that make the series appealing – the history of the main characters and their development – also constrain where one can go. Finally, a police procedural has an internal structure that must be respected.

Writers always need to be challenged to avoid their work becoming stale and boring, both to them and to their readers. We wanted to write a novel with a backstory of the South African rhino poaching and rhino-horn smuggling, but we wanted it to have the structure of a thriller – quite different from the police procedural. In a thriller, the action and the protagonist have to be believable, but they don’t have to follow the laws and evidence as police procedurals do. The rhino issues are really complex, and we wanted to get right into the action rather than pick up the pieces afterwards, as one does in a mystery.

So we imagined Crystal Nguyen. A strong female protagonist, born in Vietnam, she has a passion for conservation and a strong commitment to the American Gray Wolf. And she is someone who is willing to go beyond the rules when she feels it’s necessary. She is commissioned by National Geographic to visit South Africa to complete an article exploring the rhino-horn trade at the same time as trying to find the National Geographic reporter who disappeared while working on it. It turns out to be a much more dangerous and challenging assignment than she could ever have imagined. 

I’m glad there will be more Kubo, although I have to say I loved the character of Crystal, as someone who on the whole prefers animals to people I certainly warmed to her passion and commitment to conservation!  Have you both always been writers?

Well, Michael tried his hand at science fiction when he was at university, but we came late to mystery fiction. We started working on our debut book, A Carrion Death, in 2003. In another sense, however, we both have always been writers – in the academic non-fiction space. Both of us have written many research papers, and Stanley has written four text books on topics ranging from the use of computers in education to human factors in aviation. And most of our work has been done in collaboration with other people, so it seemed very natural to us to work on a novel as a collaborative project.

Can you tell us what a typical working day looks like for you?

Michael: I’m involved in a lot of things, including image processing research and graduate students at the university, and being a director of a start-up company in the geophysics area. Then, there are many communication activities around the books, including blogs and reviewing for ITW and the New York Journal of Books. Eventually – usually in the evenings – the dust settles enough to write. I feel very fortunate that I can do all these things for the pleasure of doing them rather than to earn a living.

Stanley: I am not disciplined at all when it comes to daily writing. I, too, have many interests including travel, various sporting activities and attending classical-music concerts. So, I write in between all of these and have developed the ability to write anywhere, even when sitting next to a screaming baby on a plane. I can block out almost anything.

It certainly sounds like you are both busy. How would you spend a perfect afternoon away from work?

Michael: Doing what I’m doing right now – sitting by the Olifants River at my place in the African bush near the Kruger National Park, relaxing and appreciating the complete wildness of the area and the beauty of its animal and bird life. The more afternoons like that you put together, the better it gets.

Stanley: Being in the bush would be my first choice too. I think too few people take the time to completely relax for extended periods of time.

That sounds absolutely amazing. South Africa is definitely on my list for places I’d like to visit. One of the things I love about your books are the real sense of the beauty and wildness of the country that comes across in the writing. Are you an avid readers yourselves? If so, which authors do you find yourself returning to time and again?

Michael: Yes I read a lot; most of the fiction is mysteries or thrillers of one sort or another. I write a monthly piece called Africa Scene for the International Thriller Writers in which I feature a book set in Africa and its author. My favourite South African crime fiction author is Deon Meyer. I think his latest book Fever (which is a near future post-apocalypse novel set in the South African karoo) is one of his most powerful books. I’m also a great John Le Carré fan. I think he is one of the best writers in the genre – or in any genre. (Henning Mankel reputedly said that Le Carré is the best author who will never win a Nobel prize.) His semiautobiographical A Perfect Spy is brilliant – I’ve read it several times and keep learning about writing from it.

Stanley: I mainly read mysteries, but also some historical non-fiction. I’m attracted to stories that are in translation, giving me an insight into different cultures. I enjoy Sunshine Noir because I prefer being warm to being cold!

Sunshine Noir is a great term! Finally can you tell us a little about what you are working on next?

We’re writing a prequel in the Detective Kubu series. In the book, Kubu is a new detective joining the Criminal Investigation Department. He has a tough time; because he hasn’t followed the usual route to being a detective, and the current detectives don’t like it. Then the CID is thrown into turmoil by a daring heist of diamonds from the world’s richest diamond mine at Jwaneng. Kubu has to prove himself in short order. Our working title is Facets of Death.

I can’t wait to read that one either. Thank you so much for joining me Michael and Stanley and taking the time to answer my questions, and thanks to the lovely Anne Cater of Random Things for inviting me onto this.

If you haven’t yet read Michael Stanley then you are in for a real treat and I’d highly recommend them.

Dead of Night is available now.

To find our more about Dead of Night and Michael Stanley make sure you visit some of the other stop on the blog tour:

Dead of Night blog poster 2018 (3)

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